An Alternative View: Proselytism and Evangelism Both Threaten Damnation

December 2, 2019

The Rev. Bro. Robert Barker is a retired clergyperson with BSc and MDiv degrees.

A recent column on this page sought to draw a distinction between Proselytism and Evangelism. 

The author stated that although both have the same goal to convert people to Jesus as savior and lord, proselytism emphasizes fear and oercion while evangelism emphasizes love, respect, and invitation.  In reality both are cut from the same theological cloth of “turn or burn” and therefore the difference is only one of crassness versus subtlety.

The evangelism that the author describes is a form of proselytism that has merely put on a friendlier face as opposed to the wrathful face of fire and brimstone. 

This friendly form of evangelizing proselytism brings to the forefront that god loves people not because they are good, or obey his commands or church rules but because loving is what god is and does.  I agree the essence of the Divine Spirit is one of love.  But I must ask a question, why would a god who loves and accepts people unconditionally ever have a need for a hell in which to damn people that it loves unconditionally?  Unconditional love rules out hell and damnation. 

Both the friendly faced evangelizing-proselytism and the stern faced proselyting-evangelism have as a basis the belief in damnation for those persons who refuse the efforts to “save them”.  Both strategies use the carrot and stick, heaven and hell, approach to manipulate people to accept their understanding of god and salvation.  The friendlier evangelizing-proselytism merely does a better job of camouflaging the “turn or burn”.  

When the invitation is declined because the invitee does not agree to believe the dogma of the inviter – that they were born in original sin and thus can only sin; that there is no good in them and therefore are destined for hell unless they repent and accept the bloody sacrificial death of Jesus required by this loving but cruel god for their sins – then the friendly face of proselyting-evangelism turns into a scowl.  The so-called unconditional love shows itself to be conditional love after all. And the consequence of refusal is that this “loving god” sends the refuser to eternal separation in hell.

I know of this so-called friendly, invitational evangelizing-proselytism approach from personal experience.  As a member of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship at WMU and a Lutheran pastor for 30 years I used this soft-pedal approach. 

An authentically friendly evangelism would reject and disavow a god who damns to hell and teach the Universalism theology that god damns no person but genuinely loves and accepts all people unconditionally.  But to do so it would also must reject and disavow original sin passed down from parent to child and a host of other dogma that supports the hell and damnation doctrine.

In the book that teaches the theology of Universalism, “If Grace is True: Why God Will Save Every Person” by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland, on page 12, 13 the authors state: “…the God of Jesus – a God of unlimited patience, infinite love, and eternal faithfulness…The God who loves people more than formulas, mercy more than judgement, and pardon more than punishment.”  

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